Crazy and audacious. Even silly most of the time.
These are common traits of tech startup business ideas. Founders want to go where no one has gone before. They create a market where there is none yet. They don’t take competitors head on. Instead, they do something different, sidestepping every other business on their path.
But then, they succeed! Crazy, isn’t it?
You go to TechCrunch and hear about the story of a 19 year old raising $4 million. You hear about a social network’s new business in the world of hardware. And there’s another 6 billion dollar acquisition.
The typical founder’s story.
Charles left his high-paying software engineering job.
To pursue his passions and the desire for autonomy, he’s building his cool product idea. He believes that his email app concept has superior interaction design. He’s open to pivot to other ideas as well, but the main criteria is the creativity factor.
With the optimism that he’ll hit the jackpot, he keeps going. It’s not so easy, though. There are days when looking at his bank account makes him ask “Is this idea worth my savings?”
Charles is conflicted about his desire to pursue something he loves, while another side of him fears the unproven business potential.
He consults his software geek friends. Those friends aren’t making any substantial income from their apps either. They keep going because TechCrunch keeps publishing great news.
He gets pumped every once in a while, but he can’t shake the feeling that his gamble lacks confidence.
Do you feel what Charles is feeling?
How many lines of code did it take?
While some founders hit the jackpot, imagine how much work they invested to get there. How much software did they create to eventually build something that works? How many designs did they throw away?
It’s like buying lottery tickets. Some people buy too many of them and get higher odds of winning. However, you don’t really hear about the story of that guy who bought three tickets every week, without winning any prize.
There are two paths to success:
- Build something small and scale from there
- Keep playing the lottery
Let’s not forget that there are many “overnight successes” that were apparently nine years in the making.
If many ideas are silly, what should I work on?
Tired founders ask this question, unsure about what idea to pursue next. After false starts and difficult attempts, they want to build something with greater evidence of success.
Before you take that giant leap of faith to the new startup abyss, take a long look first. Is the audacious idea worth quitting your job for?
Does it mean you’ll build mooshot technology that will help Elon launch rockets? Should you begin with something as simple as a web design agency? Or maybe a SaaS app that requires 7 months for developing the first beta?
You can and should start small.
People pay good money to learn what you already know. Share what you have learned. Help new businesses with your design and development skills. For example, you can teach people about WordPress plugins to make their websites easier to manage. That’s something easy to build and valuable on day one.
What have people paid you for? Did you have a high-paying design or development job? Why don’t you take on client work that will provide proven value immediately?
It can be overwhelming when and how to begin. Even Facebook had to start small, Zuck created a simple prototype only for his university. Now they’re involved in drones and VR.
The key is to build a small, but working foundation.
To get you started, here are some tips for choosing the right startup business opportunity:
1. Market Demand
Even if you know you can create a kick-ass product, ask yourself if it’s what customers want. How do you do that? Research and study your market first. Steve Blank’s concept of getting out of the building for high-tech business success should be applied here.
In this concept, you build a product with basic features. You focus most of your time listening to and interacting with potential customers. That way, you will know if people are actually clamoring for this solution.
Perform market research online. Begin in the comfort of your laptop or smartphone. Listen to what the market is already asking for.
Test your small product. From the feedback that you get, you can tweak early and often. Focus on refining based on real usage data.
A product or business is all about the customers. It’s not about how artfully the product was built. In the end, your goal is to acquire customers that will be succesful with your solutions.
2. Willingness and Ability.
Your passions and skills enable you to deliver. It is said that entrepreneurs who have the passion for what they do tend to be successful.
It’s true. You’ll have to do things outside your comfort zone. Be aware that time, effort and money are needed no matter how small the business is. You will go through obstacles, forks along the road. These things will happen.
Having the passion enables you to keep going even when it gets rough. You can endure problems along the way and find solutions.
This is about execution. Provided that you have a viable model, your willingness & ability will fuel your likelihood of delivering that promising idea.
3. Availability of Tools
Do you have the tools you need to start a particular business? Are they available when you need them?
If you’re getting into the hardware business, do you have the right connections? If you’re building a product that requires a huge upfront investment, do you have the capital?
With today’s technology, it’s easy and inexpensive to whip up an e-commerce store with Shopify. You can even build apps that are heavily based on off-the-shelf automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT.
Consider what products are easier to build, based on the tools at your disposal.
How some startups did it:
Codecademy is an example of the market demand for learning to code. Zach Sims didn’t know how to code but wanted to. He tried learning how to code from books. He realized that learning to code from just reading is not effective. Exercises and working on projects while learning is better. He integrated the “learning while doing” process into Codecademy.
Today, Codecademy transforms coding into an easy to learn “bite-sized pieces” that are easy to accomplish. They’re highly successful after chasing a real market demand based on successfully scratching their own itch.
An idea that started when its founders complain about how hard it is to get a cab.
Uber took advantage of the newly available technology infrastructure: smartphones. You now have a computer that allows you to tap that button for hailing a ride. Because the tools and market conditions allowed this opportunity, they were able to innovate around the evergreen need for transportation.
They combined the undeniable market need for transportation and the newly available infrastructure.
Over to you
It can all start with a crazy idea.
The key is to seek for bite-sized opportunities and grow from there. Scan the market based on undeniable needs and apply your your abilities to solve that problem from your perspective.
Seek for real opportunities based on:
- Market demand
- Your willingness & ability
- Availability of tools